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The Wealth of Water

The Value of an Essential Resource

Co Authors:

Melanie K. Rathburn
Department of General Education
Mount Royal University

Karina J. Baum
Division of Natural Science / College of General Studies
Boston University


Many students take the availability of water for granted. This case study, which focuses on the Cochabamba water revolt in Bolivia, is designed to encourage students to think about water as a limited natural resource. Students learn about the limited nature of freshwater and the impact that access to clean water has on people across all socioeconomic demographics. Designed for a non-majors course in global ecology, the case could also be used in non-majors and majors courses in biology, environmental science, environmental policy, ethics, and international relations, among others.

  • Understand the limited nature of freshwater.
  • Appreciate that access to clean water is an issue that does not make distinctions between developed and developing countries.
  • Critically evaluate opposing views on water privatization.
  • Calculate and analyze data related to water consumption.
Keywords: Freshwater; water rights; water privatization; water consumption; water conflicts; developing world; Cochabamba, Bolivia; Bechtel
Topical Area: Ethics, Policy issues, Social justice issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Ecology   Environmental Science   Natural Resource Management   Business / Management Science  
Date Posted: 7/22/2009
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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I have been using this lesson with my at-risk high school students for several years, as a part of their environmental science curriculum. It is a great way to present all the issues around water usage, water rights, corporations and social justice. I also use the documentary "Blue Gold: World Water Wars" and the film "Even the Rain" along with various units from the California EEI curriculum. Science is now so much more immediate to my students and they understand how their actions and decisions can shape the way they will be able to live in the future. Thank you for providing such an effective tool for me to use with them!

Tanya Adams
Science Department
Sunburst Youth Challenge Academy
Los Alamitos, CA

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